The Great Spiritual Migration
Brian McLaren's ambitious analysis documenting three major shifts taking place in the Christian faith
The Great Spiritual Migration
How the World's Largest Religion Is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian
By Brian D McLaren
Hodder & Stoughton
Reviewed by John Rackley
Brian McLaren is an intriguing person. He is an Evangelical Christian. He has written more than 25 books. He dedicates this present one to such as Greenbelt and Oasis. He is a leader in Convergence.
This is a self-proclaiming multi-denominational movement of progressive congregations and leaders. With favourable reviews from such as Richard Rohr, Joan Chittister and Diana Butler Bass, he offers three propositions. He believes that among Christians and people of other faiths there are three migrations:
there is a spiritual migration from reliance on a system of beliefs to developing a way of life
there is a theological migration from belief in a violent God of domination to a non-violent God of liberation
there is a missional migration from organised religion to organising religion.
He backs this up with much reference to his previous books and quotations from people as various as Pope Francis, Thich Nhah Hanh, Gustavo Guittierrez and Richard Rohr (many!).
There a number of significant chapters:
God. He considers the consequences of our understanding of God and what think of salvation, church and mission. He concludes: For the first time in history, God, the exclusive god who is god of us but not them, threatens our survival.
Bible. He exhorts the reader to consider what style of reading of Scripture they are following and the consequences for humanity. He is writing on a vast scale.
Social Movement Theory. An important chapter for anyone who is wondering how an institution like the Baptist Union or their local church could move from institutional entrenchment to movement adventure.
The book concludes with a reflection on the relationship of belief to believing; a Charter on Just and Generous Christianity and the human characteristics that would support such a Charter.
This is a demanding book to read; not because it is difficult but it is intense. He packs a lot in. He loves the clever sentence and is passionate. But I am left wondering who would read this.
Clearly it is meant for the USA Evangelical market. It is for people who are leaving the church spiritually. They may still go but they have left the church in all but attendance. He is assuming that still have the willingness to listen to an alternative way of being Christian.
He appeals to them to not give up but form new Christian communities of just and generous Christianity. This will mean training new leaders who are not prepared to be maintain the status quo in their denomination. This will mean existing denominations shedding their pre-conceived, long-term devotion to the convictions of the past.
Yet there is something lacking. Richard Rohr and the others are all good – but what I missed was the voice of the man riding the 7.35am tube to Baker Street or the woman delivering her child to mother for a day’s child-care.
What are they saying?
Who is speaking for them?
John Rackley is a non-stipendiary Baptist minister